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Why financial control is a smart second step in your career

27/02/2023 – Financial controlling talents are in high demand - many paths are open to them and the demand for specialists is growing. When completing a master's degree and gaining initial professional experience at one of the Big 4 or auditing firms, finance workers often find themselves looking for a new challenge.

After working as an auditor, a position in financial, group, investment, business or unit controlling as well as in group accounting, general accounting or even as a financial analyst could be a smart tactical move for the further career.

In practice, expertise as a financial controller actually proves extremely valuable for later senior finance positions. Financial controlling talents score points with an overview of a company's entire financial system - both internally and externally. These skills in particular are indispensable if aiming for a senior finance role in the medium to long term, for example as a CFO in a medium-sized company or as an executive in financial controlling. Hande Bostan-Caruso, Senior Manager at Robert Walters, has been working in HR consulting for more than eleven years. She has extensive specialist and industry knowledge and shares her experiences.

Further career steps for Big 4 graduates

Bostan-Caruso confirms: ,Candidates who have worked in accounting, bookkeeping, group accounting or financial and investment controlling have the best chances of obtaining a management position in finance. In order to gain a foothold in the industry, one should ideally switch to the finance area after about two or four years of auditing work and, depending on the size of the company, gain experience in both: the preparation of consolidated and individual financial statements in accordance with HGB and international accounting standards. But one should also build up demonstrable applied knowledge in controlling to gain relevant experience in planning, managing and controlling the performance of a business.' This provides financial controllers with a solid foundation to subsequently apply as CFOs in medium-sized companies, for example. The situation is different when moving to large and DAX-listed companies: ,In this case, a position in group accounting or investment controlling with a concrete career path is the obvious choice.'

Financial controlling as an indispensable management tool

The accuracy, completeness and timeliness of financial data are, so to speak, the life elixir of any company. The controller functions as a control instrument and is therefore of utmost importance. After all, the decisions that management and the board of directors make for the future of the company are based on sound analysis and correct reporting. How do you want to position yourself in the future, which business areas should be expanded or, if necessary, discontinued? Bostan-Caruso explains: ,Within the Big 4, for example, you are responsible for auditing annual and consolidated financial statements, but you did not prepare them yourself. As an accounting expert, you work with data and figures from the past. Controlling, on the other hand, is responsible for analysing and screening the company from A to Z in order to derive important recommendations for action in the future.'

In other words, a controller critically examines the design of processes and should identify opportunities for improvement. Bostan-Caruso emphasises : ,The economic stability and sales growth of a company can be derived from how carefully they have been managed by controlling. Just by looking at the P&L, a controller must be able to decide in which direction - positive or negative - the company is currently moving. And, if necessary, taking countermeasures in case of an imbalance.' In this way, the controller sometimes also acts as a kind of change manager.

Do you have any advice for candidates looking to take the next step in their career?

Bostan-Caruso recommends that applicants continue their education whilst working for one of the Big 4. The chambers of industry and commerce offer additional training, for example with so-called IHK-certifications. These may include becoming a certified accountant or controller as well as SAP, SAP HANA or FICO key user certifications allowing them to expand their expertise and enhances their profile. Bostan-Caruso says: ,There are multiple Big 4 graduates with a few years of work experience. Additional relevant certifications can make all the difference - especially when it comes to standing out against other top candidates in a hiring decision.'

The type is also crucial

Bostan-Caruso also advises Big 4 graduates to engage in honest self-reflection: ,What type of person am I, how do I function best, what do I trust myself to do? Do I need a lot of processes and fixed structures in a fully scaled corporation to be able to perform? Or do I feel more comfortable in an environment with flatter hierarchies, shorter work processes and more freedom and creativity, where I can also implement ideas myself occasionally?' She also points out: ,In a large corporation, you work according to different, namely fixed structures that sometimes resemble an 'assembly line production' - even in finance and accounting. Nevertheless, corporations also have development programs for particularly high-performing employees. Career paths of this kind often do not exist in medium-sized companies.' Therefore, the question of type is not of secondary importance. In this context, it is sometimes advantageous to have a professional recruiter on hand with his or her expertise when it comes to working out one's own profile and finding the right new employer.

How can Robert Walters provide support here?

Bostan-Caruso: ,We do nothing else on a daily basis but match suitable clients with ideal candidates. We know exactly where the candidate is best suited professionally and personally. Is he or she more suited to a medium-sized company or a corporate group or global player? Through preliminary interviews and our experience in recruiting, we have a transparent overview of the current market and know what the next sensible career step might be. We know in detail how the finance departments in the individual companies function. The only way applicants can gauge what to expect is through the job ad.' Due to her extensive experience in consulting, the senior manager knows the companies, their finance departments and also other departments in detail. In this way, candidates gain clarity in advance about the internal structures, requirements and development opportunities of a potential employer. It is also a fact that specialists in finance are in demand and the opportunities for advancement are many and varied.

Further information

Click here to take a look at our current jobs in financial controlling.

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Find out more by contacting one of our specialist recruitment consultants

Hande Bostan-Caruso

Senior Manager Legal | Frankfurt
Phone: +49 69 244 378 530

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